The Eating Better alliance has set out steps to stimulate a 50% reduction in meat and dairy consumption in the UK by 2030, and for a transition to ‘better’ meat and dairy as standard.
‘Better by half: A roadmap to less and better meat and dairy’ provides 24 actions to help create the right environment for people to eat better for themselves and the planet.
Change is afoot
At a recent Eating Better workshop David Foad of Public Sector Catering Magazine explained that the PSC100 Group, which represents public sector caterers across schools, hospitals, universities, care homes, prisons and the MoD, is looking closely at meat reduction. Today major public sector catering associations have announced that they will work towards a 20% reduction in meat served to benefit people’s health and achieve a reduction in the industry’s carbon footprint to benefit the environment.
The aim of the reduction would be to benefit people’s health and achieve a reduction in the industry’s carbon footprint to benefit the environment.
Eating Better broadly welcomes this announcement. We are keen to support the PSC100 in their efforts in this area including considering the target number and date, how it is measured and how they can ensure the remainder of the meat and dairy served is from farmers that work in a nature friendly way.
Public sector catering – big opportunities for big impacts
Eating Better is calling on the Government and others to normalise sustainable diets through public procurement. The size of public sector catering means that changes in procurement can have big direct impacts as well as a wider effect on the food supply chain with positive knock-on outcomes for production, including creating a market for more vegetables and better meat.
When considering changes in public sector catering it is helpful to think of the intricacies of each part of the market, including the amount and type of people catered for, how many meals are served and the characteristics of diners.
David Foad told us that: ‘In the UK there are 9.72m children at school, 536,000 care home beds, 4.5m students at universities and FE colleges, 157,000 NHS beds, 192,000 service personnel in the military and 83,000 prisoners.’
‘2.1 billion meals are served through public sector catering each year. This includes 1 billion in schools, 146 million in hospitals, 576 million in care homes, 77 million in universities, 89 million in prisons and 210 million in the military.’
Where are the opportunities for change?
At a recent Eating Better alliance workshop, many participants felt that schools provide the ripest opportunity to create a step change. They are the location where the most meals are served, and in terms of long-term change providing a healthy and sustainable ‘food environment’ for children has the potential to affect the food choices throughout their lives.
Big changes in other settings would also have a great impact. Different public settings may be more or less amenable to change for example diners in universities may be more flexible than those in prisons or care homes. The longevity of impact would also vary greatly between younger and older diners.
Many Eating Better alliance organisations are already leading the way on working with local authorities, caterers and others to make food procurement more sustainable. The Soil Association’s Food for Life programme brings schools, nurseries, hospitals and care homes, and their surrounding communities together around the core ethos of healthy, tasty and sustainable food. Sustain have embedded support for better public food procurement across a whole range of their programmes, including: Better Hospital Food, Children’s Food Campaign and Sustainable Food Cities. Other alliance members also support this sector, including: Four Paws with Make Food Kinder; ProVeg with School Plates and Humane Society with Forward Food.